Get to Know the Australian Cattle Dog: A Dingo Descendant From Down Under

The only dog with Dingo in his pedigree, this breed is an ace at herding cattle on rugged land.


This dog from Down Under is the only dog with Dingo in his background. Maybe that’s why the Australian Cattle Dog is a little on the wild side. Brains, bravery and brawn — he’s a dinki-di cattle controller as well as his human’s best bud.

More interesting things about Australian Cattle Dogs

  • Cattle ranching in Australia in the early 1800s was hard work, especially when it came to getting unruly cattle to a market that could be a thousand miles away over rugged, unfenced terrain. Most herding dogs from England and Scotland were developed to drive sheep and complacent cattle fairly short distances over pleasant terrain.
  • The Hall family imported blue-mottled dogs used by drovers in Northumberland, England, then bred them with Dingoes they had tamed. The resulting dogs, called Halls Heelers, combined herding abilities with ruggedness.
  • After Thomas Hall died in 1870, his line of dogs became available to others.

  • Other breeds may have been infused into the mix, including Dalmatians, Bull Terriers, and black and tan Kelpies.
  • They became known as Queensland Blue Heelers.
  • The ACD May be confused with the Canaan Dog, but the Canaan Dog is taller and more slender, and does not come in roan or speckled color patterns.

  • Don’t confuse the ACD’s color pattern with the merle pattern. The ACD is not a merle. They can be either red or blue mottled.
  • Puppies are born white and get their color within a few weeks.
  • The genes behind the ACD’s roan-like color pattern have not yet been identified. The color may be a case of extreme white spotting (in other words, a mostly white background) covered with tiny intermingled ticking. But nobody knows.

  • ACDs have a high rate of deafness (about seven percent deaf in one ear, and three percent deaf in both ears.) Those with facial masks or body patches have a lower incidence. This is characteristic of dogs with extreme white spotting.
  • The ACD is a member of the AKC Herding group.
  • The ACD is the 58th most popular AKC breed, up from 73rd a decade ago.

  • No ACD has even placed in the group at the Westminster dog show. That just doesn’t seem right. They’ve been competing there since 1981.
  • A dog named Wooleston Blue Jack is ancestral to most, if not all, Australian Cattle Dogs whelped since 1990 throughout the world.

  • The world’s oldest dog was an ACD named Bluey, who died in 1939 at the age of 29 years and five months.
  • Skidboot, known for his amazing intelligence, was half or more ACD.
  • ACDs played roles in Mad Max 2, Secret Window, Last of the Dogmen, The Silver Stallion movies and in the Fallout video games.
  • Owners include Matthew McConaughey, Steve Earle, Owen Wilson, Mark Harmon, Luke Wilson, Mark Salling, George Strait, Allison Janney and Kelley McGillis.

Do you own a Australian Cattle Dog? Have you spent time with one? Let’s hear what you think about this fascinating breed in the comments! And if you have a favorite breed you’d like us to write about, let us know that, too!

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About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughtySalukis and one Jack Russell Terrier.

13 thoughts on “Get to Know the Australian Cattle Dog: A Dingo Descendant From Down Under”

  1. Interesting facts: The New Guinea Singing Dog, or New Guinea Dingo, is actually the progenitor of the Australian Dingo, a sister species, and closest relative. The NGSD is the rarest and most ancient proto-domestic canid in existence, with wild population numbers unknown and the captive population numbering at perhaps 100-150 highly inbred animals. In addition to the AUD, the NGSD gave rise to many domestic breeds, being the primary ancestor vs the grey wolf. To learn more about NGSDs (aka NGDs or HWD, for Highland Wild Dog), visit the The New Guinea Highland Dog Foundation or New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Society websites or Facebook groups.

  2. I have a 4 yo blue healer. She’s the most photogenic dog I’ve ever had the pleasure of being owned by. She’s smarter than any other dog around her…and apparently much smarter than me. She usually has me chasing her toys. She has an odd twitch whenever she sits or lies down. Every second or so she jerks like she’s trying to bite her tail then resets to a resting position. Then does it again. Eventually she gets frustrated, barks a few times, and takes off running. It seems like it may be a neurological tick. Have you seen anything like that in this breed or does it seem my suspicion may be accurate?

  3. Pingback: Get to Know the Australian Cattle Dog: A Dingo Descendant From Down Under –

  4. I just came across this as trying to find out exactly what breed my dog is. Pretty sure ACD/Dingo. He is black with cool white markings. Highly active, very smart dog, and strong. I live in Orange County and can run miles and miles in the canyons with him,,,,,,and he wants to run more. Everything I read through describes my dog Spike to a tee. Any reach out with information would be appreciated.

  5. I have what I think is a ACD, she is 6 years old, and we have had her 5 1/2 years. She has more the coloring of a dingo, but the body of an ACD. We are getting a gene test. She is very well behaved most of the time, loves chasing balls, better than anything except chasing and shaking to death ground squirels or gophers. Only physical problem she has had is a few times limping presumably from landing badly after a leap up (try to keep her from this though) – she is an amazing athlete and loves running leaping and catching a ball.

  6. add to my last…… her name is Su My other working sheepdog is a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog or Vlcak who goes by the name of Buddy together what a team i work buddy at extreme ranges while driving, with Su on the inside rear of the sheep together they are a perfect team i couldnt ask or beg for a better pair In all honesty… ABE (again)…. And if you want pics i have them in plenty also:

  7. I have the most awesome loyal working dog his father is 100% blue heeler and mother is kelpie x dingo , he’s totally amazing , I have had many ex police dogs , this boys 100x ‘I have never worked with a dog so intelligent ???? but he farts a lot ????

    1. Hi there,

      Thanks for reaching out! Please find some information on dog gas here:

  8. Last week I adopted a 4.5 year Heeler Mix from a rescue. She definitely has a lot of mottled midnight blue spots, a black patch on her left eye and rump, but I don’t know what other breeds are mixed. So smart, very protective. Does anyone know what else is in her? See my profile photo.

  9. We have owned heelers for 30+ years. We have had mostly blue but now have a full blooded red heeler and a blue heeler/ border Collie. Both have been great dogs! The heeler cross is getting up in years and is deaf and doesn’t see real well either. The red is 2 years old and full of energy. She’s an excellent herder and takes no “guff” from bulls or cows.

  10. I have an almost 9 month old dog who has the same colors, height and just about body shape of an Australian cattle dog her brother looks the exact same as her but is much taller can they still be full breed?

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